We went apple picking TWICE recently and my kitchen is overrun with the delicious red fruit. So Ive been shoving apples into just about every meal our family eats. And these are some of my favourite recipes.
Ive lived in Canada for 10 years now and this year, I went apple picking for the first time. Okay, WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG?! It is SO much fun! We went to two different orchards and I must say had two very different experiences (both wildly pleasurable- just in different ways).
The first orchard we visited was the Verger Ecologique dOka. Though not certified, this is an organic orchard just bursting with various breeds of apples including Paula Reds, Lobos, Cortlands, and Empires. Some sugary sweet, some crisp and tart. All totally scrumptious.
I think this was the first time Monster actually ate an apple! I’ve offered them a million times before but hes never really been interested. But at the Verger Ecologique, he ate two whole apples, juice dripping down his chin. It was the cutest thing ever. Almost as cute as watching the two boys throw rocks in a puddle.What I loved best about the Verger Ecologique dOka was how simple it was. They had a few toys and provided the handy wagon we used to lug the kids as well as our bags of apples, but there were no animals or rides or anything to distract from the tranquility of the place. It was kind of like being in an apple spa. Just lush green nature and more fruit than you could possibly imagine. The owners were super nice and took the time to explain the growing cycle of the apples, the differences in texture and flavour, the best way to pick them so as to leave the buds intact for next seasons crop, etc.
I don’t have a photo, but they have this lovely indoor sitting area with a comfy couch to nurse on (the three moms had a lively discussion about our respective births), a chalkboard and tables and chairs for older kids to amuse themselves. And Monster tasted fresh apple juice from fruit picked the day before. It was AMAZING. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. The apples were divine and priced reasonably at $1 a pound up to 20lbs and $1.49/lb over that.
You’ll remember that apples are the NUMBER ONE fruit on the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen to AVOID if not organic, because the skins absorb a large percentage of environmental toxins like the sprayed on pesticides. For little growing bodies, this is of even greater importance. So paying a little more to have a fun nature experience and get fruit that you can eat off the tree without worrying about toxic crap is WELL worth it. To me at least.
The other farm we went to was Quinn Farm.
Update: In my original post, Id mentioned Quinn practiced organic farming without being certified, but I was misinformed. They do use pesticides and therefore any apples picked here should ideally be washed before eating and peeled before cooking.
Note: Many farms maintain organic standards but choose not to get certified because certification is extremely expensive and drives up their costs or eats painfully into already thin margins. The best way to know whether a farm lives up to its organic status is really to do some research and build relationships with the farmers via visits or their social media platforms.
Quinn Farm had McIntosh, Lobo and Cortland apples and for a $10 entry charge per person, you get a bag of apples included.
The Quinn Farm visit was actually organized by Monsters daycare, so a whole whack of excited kids and parents got onto yellow school buses and spent the morning petting animals, sliding down a big rubber tube slide, getting a tractor ride and sloshing about in the mud picking apples.
The atmosphere at Quinn is far busier and more stimulating than the Verger. I loved both. Monster enjoyed the various animals that hed only thus far seen in books. He loved playing on the slide and watching the tractors. There was lots to see and do, but I definitely felt like I was doing more herding.
I guess you could compare the two experiences by using a toy metaphor: The Verger Ecologique dOka is like a beautiful polished set of wooden blocks that are as fun as you make them. Lots of room to run and let your imagination go free. Quinn Farm is more like a battery operated toy that sings favourite songs and engages your mind and body on a different level. Both rock. And both families that run each farm are wonderful and worth supporting.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post:
So what do you do with 6 huge bags of apples?
Lets start with some of the BEST apple muffins I’ve ever tasted. EVER. AND they’re gluten- and dairy-free!
Simple, scrumptious and sweetened with only a touch of honey and cinnamon, these babies are almost too good to be true!
Here’s a link to the recipe on the genius PaleOMG blog (she is one badass cook! I subscribe to her blog and highly recommend you do the same, paleo or not!)
The other thing I’ve been doing is finding ways to sneak apples into traditionally apple-free fare. Like how I added a couple of peeled, diced apples to this Thai green shrimp curry I made for dinner last night.
Organic coconut milk, a sachet of green curry paste, apples, shrimp, one large chopped zucchini and basil from my balcony. Yum yum!
Other ideas include grating apples into pancakes and adding them to sweeten leek and potato soup.
Of course, this list would not be complete without a recipe for homemade slow cooker apple sauce. It is the SIMPLEST thing ever! I literally wash and core my apples. I dont even bother to peel or core them. I throw in as many apples as my crockpot will hold, add about a cup of water, some spices, set on low and walk away. When the apples are all mushy, I throw them in my blender, peels and all and voila! Delicious pink apple sauce.
Dude, you’ve seen applesauce before! I’m prettier!
SLOW COOKER APPLESAUCE
16 apples (or as many as your slow cooker will hold), washed and cored
1 tbsp allspice
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 inch peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
zest of one lime
1- 2 cups filtered water
Add all ingredients, set slow cooker on low and come back after 3 hours. Puree in blender. Put in clean mason jars (I recommend wide mouth, straight sided ones with the decorative patterns on the side you can buy them at Canadian Tire. ONLY the mason jars with the patterns are safe for freezing. The ones without are cheaper but will crack when frozen). If you’re handy with canning equipment, you can them or just store them in the freezer like I do. In a chest freezer, they’ll keep for a year.
Ha! Like you’re not going to eat them before that!
Toddler-friendly apple cider, anyone?
For delicious non-alcoholic apple cider-style drink, just scoop out the liquid in your slow cooker before you puree the apples. Serve hot.
I have to go now have some apple butter in the crockpot. Lemon cardamom apple butter to be exact. It smells divine and it super easy too. Come back later this week and Ill have the recipe up.
Meanwhile, what are your favourite ways for using up the seasons harvest? Im always looking for GF/DF recipes to try.